Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Does Student Affairs Operate on External Formulas?

Why Does Student Affairs Operate on External Formulas?
ACPA Credentialing: A Grad Perspective

Student Affairs has been operating on external formulas for decades and is creating a credentialing system as a means to validate the profession. In my opinion, I feel that Student Affairs suffers from an identity crisis.

Are we a profession, like a doctor, lawyer, or teacher? Or can anyone do this type of work?

The debate has gone on for a long time, fueled by the profession’s need for validation from our fellow peers in higher education, the faculty and other administrators. There are those who scoff at student affairs professionals as Ice Breaker Queens and the RA Who Never Left, believing that student affairs people run on glitter and rainbows.
Well, alright, there is an awful lot of bright colors and glitter in SA...I mean, this gif essentially captures every Res Life training session... ;)
The profession as a whole seems to take that stereotype to heart and then, like the younger sibling who has to prove how tough they are to their brothers, feels the need to assert the field as one that is intensely constructed and research-backed.

It appears that the profession is a long way off from self-authorship.

Here enters the desire for a credentialing program that will, some hope, certify the profession and its contributions to higher education.

ACPA announced in January 2012 that they would implement a “Credentialing Implementation Team” (CIT) in order to form a process that would allow student affairs professionals to self-report their skills and experiences. There was quite a backlash across the community via Twitter, blog posts, and website comments.

The CIT hosted “Listening Sessions” at the 2013 ACPA Convention this past March in Las Vegas. I am thankful for attending a session, because otherwise it is nearly impossible to discover any information on the topic because the CIT blog has not been updated since 2012 and if information is available on the ACPA website it is inaccessible enough that not even my grad research skills can crack it.

So at Vegas, with my front-and-back handout to explain the credentialing process further and a chance to engage a member of the CIT and interested small audience, I learned more about the credentialing process.

I do not approve.

I understand the credentialing process is still undergoing revisions and may change but as it stands now I think it is a faulty system. I understand that many good folks have been putting in a great deal of time to form this program. Also, I do strongly approve of engaging current professionals in continuing education and acknowledging their work via some form of CEU.

There are three areas I have contention with:

The main problem is that it reeks of elitism. Participation in the Student Affairs registry, the online portal that allows members to self-report their skills and training, is limited. Current graduate students cannot be involved and those without a masters degree can only do so if they have been working in a CAS area for 1-3 years.

It strikes me as odd that a field that champions social justice wants to cut off opportunities to those without the right educational background. Perhaps the idea stems from the desire to see those without an education “prove themselves” by engaging in SA work first before delving into continuing education opportunities. However, from a historical perspective that includes observations about the growth of other fields…to me this is simply a method to limit who can succeed in the field, thus emphasizing the professional success of an elite group.

There other issue at hand is that the Student Affairs Registry is a “voluntary” program. Yet its main purpose is to be utilized by everyone in the field, making involvement a de facto decision. Hiring trends in the U.S. used to say that a college bachelor’s degree was enough to get a job, but now many professions require a masters. As the field moves, will those who do not participate in the registry become excluded from promotion and new positions?

Even if everyone participates…the data is self-reported. While I know many of us may want to clutch our pearls at the idea that a SA pro would be dishonest…well, we would be dishonest to ourselves not to realize that there are going to be incidents where self-reported training may be exaggerated. As this registry moves forward as a de facto tool to use in HR decisions, we must seriously ask ourselves how valid this instrument is to the profession.

The moral of the story: Student Affairs, get out of External Formulas. Use this post as your personal Crossroads to reflect on your craving for professional legitimacy and external opinions. Stop devising ways to impress others and just do you, baby.

Then maybe we’ll reach Self-Authorship at some point. Until then…let’s seriously question if we need a credentialing system.

What do you think? Is a credentialing system needed?

Note: Normally in my blog posts I like to have some good 'ol fashioned APA fun with citations, but I think from now on, in order to make the blog more readable, I'll include some links within the text to provide credit yet otherwise will just list all my references in this section.
ACPA (2012). Credentialing Implementation Program. Retrieved from

ACPA (March 2, 2013). Governing Board Meeting Minutes. Retrieved from

ACPA Task Force on Certification. (2006). Preliminary Report. Retrieved from

Grasgreen, A. (January 24, 2012). A controversial credential. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Humphrey, K. (May 15, 2012). Hairdressers do it. Why can’t we? ACPA’s President’s Blog. Retrieved from
Kane, C. (January 30, 2012). Considering credentialing. The Student Affairs Collaborative. Retrieved from

Levine, H.. (January 17, 2012). Statement on the ACPA student affairs credential program. ACPA President’s Blog. Retrieved from

Stoller, E. (January 12, 2012). Certification for student affairs professionals. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

The Student Affairs Collaborative. (January 19, 2013). #SACHAT: Student Affairs Credentials. Retrieved from

Write What You Know...or, Graduate School Kills Creativity.

 The most important rule of writing is to “Write what you know”. That doesn’t prohibit outlandish tales and fantasy, of course. Instead, it means to focus on human relationships and experiences that you are familiar with – either through your own experiences or people you know. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien (my favorite author in the world) never had to defeat balrogs or orcs, but he did experience the pain of war and saw the suffering its evil heaped on the world, which inspired him to write about the many trials in Middle-Earth.

I am a writer by nature. When I was a child I wrote books starring “Super Witch”, a dimension-travelling young witch, or other equally bizarre tales. College unfortunately halted all creativity. My college writing instructors marked me off heavily for my “flowery prose” and as I delved more into academic writing all my creativity stopped flowing.

It began again once I graduated and began working. I’m happy to say that I wrote over a million words between 2009-2012 – sadly, they include multiple stories with no endings or complete stories that I am not interested in publishing until I find the time to tweak them. My time spent exploring my writing and trying out different styles was one of the best periods of my life. I love creating new worlds and characters!

Yet all that seems to have ended again.

I began graduate school in August 2012 and my writing sharply declined. I did continue some writing but there was barely any time for it. And now, after completing my first year of my masters program, I have once again lost that spark.

I will write one or two paragraphs for different stories but each time I get frustrated because my muse is gone, willed away from the trials of writing academic papers.

Sigh. Perhaps my muse will return after graduation…until then, I suppose I will continue espousing prose along the strict and stifling constraints of academic writing.

Or, perhaps, in keeping with "write what you know", I will write the thrilling novel of a student affairs graduate student...hmm...I wonder what super powers she will have...